Baker College students ‘hack it’ during summer break

  • Share:
July 19, 2017
Students, alumni, professionals demonstrate their vast depth, breadth
of hacking know-how in national ‘Hack the Arch’ contest

JACKSON, Mich. – Nine dedicated cyber defense students at Baker College’s Jackson campus proved they can hack with the best while honing their IT skills, even during summer break.

The three Baker College teams placed in the top 13, out of approximately 40, in the professional tier of the all-day national Hack the Arch, an atypical capture-the-flag cybersecurity competition, Saturday, June 24. This is the third year that Baker College has been represented in this annual contest presented by the St. Louis Chapter of the Military Cyber Professionals Association (MCPA-STL).

“Hack the Arch is an extreme learning exercise,” said William Sherwood, DBA, CIS-IT program director. “Because it is devised by military cybersecurity experts, it provides a current, real-world view into the profession.

“The students planned their participation themselves – it was totally optional. Their enthusiastic involvement and achievement in placing 5th, 10th and 13th is clearly reflective of the quality of our students and the Baker College program.”

The participating students were Zane Babcock, Zachary Backes, Stephen DePew, Lucas Gorcyzca, Martin Johnston, Michael Morgese, C.J. Saathoff, Polina Shebolaeva and Liam Quick. They were assisted by alumni Keenan France, employed by ASK, and Lucas Gorczyca, with Consumers Energy.

To turn up the competitive heat, the students invited members of the Jackson chapter of MiSec, an open collective of Michigan IT security professionals, to form a team and compete onsite at the Baker College cyber defense lab. The MiSec team tied with the highest scoring student team for fifth place.

Logging in for MiSec were Samuel Bradstreet, of Consumers Energy; James Green, of Offensive Security; Hilary Farrell, a Jackson College student; and Kate Vajda, of Secure Ideas.

To advance and gain points, Hack the Arch competitors have to solve a series of realistic web and network-based security challenges. Challenge categories include cryptography, SQL databases, programming, exploitation, packet analysis, steganography (messages hidden within messages), forensics and trivia. The challenges increase in difficulty as competitors get closer to hacking into the Arch. Stymied teams can purchase hints using a limited number of monetary credits.

“It is an incredibly fun and intense contest requiring speed and accuracy,” said Morgese, a team captain. “We can all contribute. If we don’t know how to solve a challenge, we buy a hint and work collaboratively on solving it.”
The contest, usually scheduled for 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., is over for a team when it runs out of credits or when any one team successfully hacks the Arch, which happened at 4 p.m., seven hours into the 2017 game.

Master Sgt. John Tagita Jr., U.S. Air Force chief of cyber operations and MCPA-STL vice president, said, “We were excited to host the Baker College teams. They did really well, and our hope is that they learned something while participating.”

MCPA’s mission is to develop the military cyber profession and invest in education in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

For more information about Baker College career programs, contact Dan Smith in the admissions office at or 517.788.7800, or visit

The largest private college in Michigan, Baker College is a not-for-profit higher education institution accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Founded in 1911, Baker College grants doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s and associate degrees, as well as certificates in diverse academic fields including applied technology, business, education, engineering, health science, information technology and social science. Baker College has on-ground campuses throughout Michigan and offers online programs that can be completed 100 percent online without ever visiting a campus. In 2016, the Online Learning Consortium recognized Baker College Online with the OLC Quality Scorecard Exemplary Endorsement, the highest ranking for online higher education programs. For information, visit or follow Baker College on Twitter, @bakercollege, or on Facebook,
# # #
Dan Smith, Admissions
(517) 788-7800